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The Potential – and Problems – of Being Generation X

March 24, 2014 Graeme Codrington Generation X and Y, Generations, Talent, Video No Comments
The Potential – and Problems – of Being Generation X

Generation Xers are becoming middle aged. And some of them are not doing it in style. They’re also causing some chaos in their workplaces with their emphasis on family, flexibility and their own goals above those of their companies. In this brief video, I outline some of the potential – and problems – of being a Gen Xer:

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Five secrets for engaging and retaining Gen Y talent

February 5, 2014 Dean van Leeuwen Generation X and Y, Generations, Talent, The workplace No Comments
Five secrets for engaging and retaining Gen Y talent

Studies show that the current crop of Gen Y talent,  will have had up to 12 different jobs and the majority of Gen Y professional graduates  (doctors, engineers, architects lawyers etc.) will no longer be working in their chosen career of study having had up to three career changes. Overall ninety-one percent of Gen Y’s expect to stay in a job for less than three years

All this job hopping madness means big headaches for talent managers and heads of HR after all  losing an employee after a year or two, means wasting precious time and resources on training and development,  before that investment pays off. Our research at TomorrowToday has identified five things your company can do to attract and retain top Gen Y talent. Our work around the world and engagement with thousands of senior leaders every years enables us to gain an in-depth understanding of the dynamics of this job-hopping “slacker” generation and we always dive deep when we discover a company that is keeping both Gen Y and Gen X talent for seven years or more. Here are the secrets to keeping and engaging Gen Y talent:

1) Forget vision and mission. What is your quest? Story-telling is increasingly important leadership skill and Gen Y want to know the story behind what your company really stands for.  If they are going to spend the majority of their waking lives working for you, what they do and what the company does has to be meaningful in a broader more societal context.

Now most businesses have a vision or mission that looks something like this:

To be the leader…selling the best…delivering  outstanding service… commitment to profit maximisation to our shareholders…being the most efficient in everyth… blah blah blah blah blah  YAWN!

At which stage you have bored every Gen Y employee to death and they have already redeployed their curriculum vitae. However, If you want to capture the mind, heart and engagement of talented Gen Y you need to appeal to their sense of spirit, their sense of adventure and most importantly their cohort’s driving sense of contributing to causes that have meaning in the world.

As the French adventurer and novelist Antoine de Saint-Exupery said:

“If you want to build a flotilla of ships, you don’t sit around talking about carpentry. No, you need to set people’s souls ablaze with visions of exploring distant shores.”

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Five New Year’s Resolutions Every Leader Should Make (HBR Blog)

As we head into a new year, an article on the Harvard Business Review blog network caught my eye. It went beyond those pithy list type emails and Facebook status updates you get at this time of year, with some real insight backed by research. The focus is on five key actions leaders can take to make a real difference in their organisations, especially with regards to talent development.

We all know how vital talent development is: finding, attracting, nurturing, developing and retaining talent are absolutely key to success in the world of work right now. More than ever before. The author of this article in HBR, Sylvia Ann Hewlett, correctly argues though that the emphasis at the moment should be on DIVERSE TALENT. A good talent pool is not enough: a good, diverse talent pool is essential. This is especially true for multinational companies. You can read her full article with all the additional research included (it’s worth well it!) at the HBR blog site here, or a summary of her five leadership actions below:

1. Be more inclusive. What does it take to consistently drive growth and innovation? The answer, according to CTI’s latest research, is a diverse workforce managed by leaders who cherish difference, embrace disruption, and foster a speak-up culture. Leaders have long recognized that an inherently diverse workforce “matches the market” and confers a competitive edge by recognizing the unmet needs of consumers and clients like themselves. But ideas from outliers too often are ignored or squelched because their originators don’t resemble the paradigms of corporate power — Caucasian, male, heterosexual, and from a similar educational and socioeconomic background. Leaders who promote a culture of diverse talent — whether in their team or throughout their organization — where everyone feels free to volunteer opinions or propose solutions that contradict convention unlock the full spectrum of innovative capacity.

2. Create pathways for sponsorship. What can help talented women, gays, and people of color spread their wings and succeed? The answer is sponsorship — a strategic workplace partnership between those with power and those with potential. Unlike mentors, who act as sympathetic sounding boards, sponsors are people in positions of power who work on their protégé’s behalf to clear obstacles, foster connections, assign higher-profile work to ease the move up the ranks, and provide aircover and support in case of stumbles. Sponsors have a significant impact on the career traction of their female and multicultural protégés: 68% of women with sponsors say they are satisfied with their rate of advancement, compared with 57% of those without sponsors; 53% of sponsored African-Americans and 55% of Asians are satisfied with their career progress, compared with, respectively, 35% and 30%. Those numbers add up to employees who are more committed, more engaged, and more likely to attract similar talent.

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Preparing for Generation Z (or whatever you’d like to call them)

November 8, 2013 Catherine Garland Future Trends, Generations, Newsletter 1 Comment

 

child crossed legs video game

They have variously been named the “Homeland” generation, the “Re-generation” and the “Centennial” generation – but at the moment, we know them best (and rather lazily) as Generation Z.   In the US, this generation is often held to have been born from 1995 onwards. However, Neil Howe, joint author of “Generations” and “The Fourth Turning”, the original academic works on Generational Theory, believes first were not born until the early 2000s.  This latter seems more in line with the usual 20 year generational cycle and tends to be our thinking here at TomorrowToday – but it’s not an exact science, and there will be a blurred boundary on the cusp with Gen Y, wherever it falls.

Whatever the exact dates, within a few short years, this generation will be reaching the workplace for the first time.  So what do we know of them – and what can we do to prepare?

The defining experience of this generation is its upbringing during the Great Recession. This is likely to make them quite conservative and conformist, because what they crave is security.  They may therefore be more inclined to work for a big corporation than members of Gen Y, who are too busy following their ‘passion’ to think of their future. When choosing their career path, which many of them are doing now, this generation may be more pragmatic and inclined to choose ‘safe’ than their entrepreneurial Gen Y predecessors. They may not be particularly materialistic, as they will have learnt from their recession-hit parents that possessions aren’t everything – but they may have to repay student debt, which will also propel them towards careers that generate a steady income.  However, with the workplace increasingly adapting to more fluid workforces, they may still have to accept many company and career changes in their working life – although they will be expecting this and will plan for it.  It’s unlikely to phase them, as they will be expert multi-taskers and will already have a childhood of varied experiences behind them.

In “How to Think Like the Next Generation”, Penelope Trunk identifies another interesting trait of Generation Z.  Because technology and connectivity have been present for them since they were able to play on mummy’s smartphone for the first time, it holds no mystique or novelty value.  It simply is.  It’s likely that this generation will be far less obsessed with pushing the boundaries of what can be done with technology and rather simply treat it as a tool.  Just take a look at the 80s-looking graphics on Minecraft to understand that fancy stuff is not their technology driver!  This may make life simpler for businesses to adapt their IT to ‘bring your own’, rather than trying to keep up with Gen Y’s constant need to be ahead of the game.

The Curve Report identifies 5 main factors in “The Z Factor” that it believes will define Generation Z:

The Least Connected Generation, Ever

Despite being technologically hyper-connected, Zs will have far less in common with their peers and neighbours than members of previous generations did (and consequently will have a harder time finding others “like them.”

XXX Ideals (Xposure, Xperience, Xpertise)

Zs are largely (although not exclusively) the children of Generation X, a cohort defined by its independence.  They will be encouraging their children to try out new experiences and emphasise depth of knowledge over exam grades and degree choice. Remember, Generation X is now watching the accomplished and well-educated Gen Y struggle to find work and build their lives.

Double Vision and Photographic Memories

As the first generation to be born into a world where everything physical, from people to places to pennies, has a digital equivalent, Zs will develop double vision and “see” a digital layer in all they encounter.

Gen(der) Neutral

Generation Z’s have been born into an environment where dads are truly hands on, where it’s cool for guys to bake and where girls playing football is old news.  Gender difference will still exist of course, but there will be far more opportunities and far less judgement.

Forever Young

One in three children born today are expected to live to 100 – and many could reach 120.  Generation Z will have to plan for this – and it may mean that they have more time for all aspects of their life.  Education, leaving home, settling down – what’s the hurry?

As businesses, we can expect to see a far more self-aware population of young people with an unprecedented understanding of their skills and talents and a pragmatic approach to career, life and technology.  Sounds great, but we can be sure there will be challenges ahead and some interesting clashes with Gen Y bosses!

What do you think?  If you have young children, what do you see in them that will shape them as future employees (and employers)?

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Will you still need me, will you still feed me, when I’m sixty-four?

pensionersThe famous lyric from the Beatles song of 1967 has moved from an individual plea to a loved one, to a more general appeal to society.  A lot has happened between 1967 and now: man has landed on the moon, the Communist Soviet Union has disintegrated, almost everyone has amazing technology at their finger tips and we are now living longer than ever before.

If you were an 18 year old in 1967 you would be one of the Baby Boomers joining the UK workforce for the first time.   You are now 64 and possibly looking forward to your pension and retirement.  The state pension age has been stuck at 65 for men and 60 for woman for that person’s whole life.  Whilst the rest of the world has changed at an alarming rate, the “Old Age Pension” age has remained the same.

The opportunity to be a retired pensioner is a relatively recent occurrence.  Prior to the Old Age Pension Act of 1908 there was no state help and it was looked at as being semi villainous to be old with no money or means to support yourself.  You either begged, starved, or if you were lucky (or maybe unlucky) you ended up in the Workhouse.  However, this act only came into force if you were over 70 and without means of over £31.50…….per year!  It wasn’t until the National Insurance Act of 1946 that we saw the introduction of a comprehensive social security system that covered unemployment, sickness and retirement, as we know today.

We all know that there is an ageing population problem, but what is it and what does it mean?  Let’s have a look at some of the data that is freely available at the UK Office of National Statistics.

In 1967 the life expectancy for a man was 69.1.  This meant that a man, on average, only lived for four years after reaching the state retirement age of 65.  In 2010 the life expectancy for a man in England had grown to 78.9, almost an eight-year increase in only 43 years.  If, however, you reached your 65th birthday in 2010 you were expected to live until a whopping 83.4.  This means that over the last 43 years a man has been living on average one extra year for every 3-5 years lived – really astonishing.

The trend looks to carry on, with the expectation that 33% of children born in 2012 will live to 100.  In 2012 there were 14,500 centenarians – by only 2035 it is forecast that there will be 110,000.

The actuaries have got their figures hopelessly wrong in the past.  Private and public pension promises that were made to workers cannot be fulfilled.  Bear in mind that in developed countries, 60% of the cost of an average pension is paid by the state.

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Mirrors, cameras, social media and cultural evolution – Seth Godin

Mirrors, cameras, social media and cultural evolution – Seth Godin

Earlier today, Seth Godin posted an interesting piece on his blog about mirrors, cameras and cultural evolution. Read it at his blog or below.

He points out that a few centuries ago nobody would have known what their “true” reflection looked like as their were no mirrors available. Today, nobody is scared of mirrors. But some people are scared of cameras. They might not feel scared, but the way they act when a camera is pointed at them indicates otherwise.

And he then pushes his point to the issue of social media, and how some people still fear it. This is a fascinating insight in the same week that Domo and CEO.com released a report saying that only 19 out of 500 of America’s top CEOs are active on social media (only 28 of them have Twitter accounts at all). I am writing a separate blog entry on that statistic (it will be released later this week, here). But for now, I’ll leave you with Seth’s thoughts about cultural evolution. And the fact that it’s inevitable.

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Learning is changing – and businesses will need to change too

Education chalkboardThere is a pattern to the disruption of industries – change happens slowly, with a few early-adopters taking a technology and innovating, but not always in the optimum way.  Then it happens quickly – and a whole industry can come tumbling down.  Take digital music, which had been around a few years before Apple took the technology, reached the masses and brought the music industry to its knees. The same happened with digital photography – which gained an early foothold, but not until the smartphone came along did consumer behaviour completely change in a way that the photographic industry failed to predict.

Massive open online courses (MOOCS) will disrupt university education. Distance learning courses have been around for years, and have a particularly strong history in the UK, with the Open University founded back in 1969. But only now is there a convergence of trends that will cause an explosion in online education and change our university system forever.  The recession has hit middle-class parents hard and low income families harder, right at a time when university fees are rising. Technology has raced on, to the point where institutions can deliver a sophisticated degree programme at a fraction of the cost of a traditional degree.

Coursera partners with 62 Universities from 14 countries to deliver free online education to anyone who wants it. In only a year it has attracted 3.2 million global users and, earlier this year, has had 5 of its courses given college degree status.

Udacity has a similar mission to deliver high quality, low cost education. Founded by Google X founder Sebastian Thrun, it is a heavy-hitting entrant to the educational space and has recently collaborated with the Georgia Institute of Technology to launch an Online Master of Computer Science degree that is making US Universities twitchy.  As Time Magazine says “Georgia Tech’s announcement….is a game changer that will have other top-tier universities that offer degrees in computer science scrambling to compete.”

In the next few years, universities will have to demonstrate that their on-campus offer really delivers an education and experience beyond that which online courses can deliver. The danger will be that only the wealthy can afford them. An earlier, bigger, danger is a massive negative economic impact for those universities who are behind the curve or don’t have the ‘name’ or financial backing as high end degrees become more accessible through online learning. We will surely see many smaller and less prestigious universities disappear within the next 20 years.

The combination of this disruption to the education system with the increasing automation of knowledge careers and the influence of the value system of Generation X mean that the traditional campus-based university degree may return to a position where only the very academic or wealthy few will make the investment.

Generation X parents have been hit hard by the recession.  They are relatively happy with risk and will be seeing and living the changing nature of education and work. They won’t the feel the need to encourage their children to go make a huge investment in a campus degree if there is no clear benefit.  Even if their family is wealthy enough to afford it, Generation Z may well agree with their parents that the money is better used to fund online learning, a deposit for a flat, or invest in a business idea.  Entrepreunership will become a career-choice in itself.

The impact on business will be that employers will have to look harder for talent.  Or at least, the relatively straightforward ‘milk round’ will no longer be a viable source of candidates, as graduates will be not be gathered in number in central locations.  On the other hand, there will be more graduates from prestigious universities as they reach a larger online student body, so employers will need to find new ways of differentiating between them.  Many of the brightest young people may not even be graduates. The whole landscape will change and businesses will have to reshape around it in order to manage diverse streams of candidates. The “one size fits all” graduate programme is likely to become a thing of the past as businesses are forced to integrate new young employees from many different attainment backgrounds – and those employees expect an individualised career path tailored to their talents and objectives.

It’s a lot of change and it will be a challenging transition.  But businesses and employees alike will gain a huge amount from the better recognition and understanding of the diversity of talents, backgrounds and life goals that are the reality of human existence, and not always fully represented by a college degree.

 

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When will they Revolt?

iStock_000019353873XSmallIn 1968 it seemed that the whole world was in dispute or turmoil. Many of the disputes were student led; there were student protests in Poland against the oppressive Communist Government, there were protests and riots in France that ending up involving workers that took France to the brink of revolution against the wartime hero Charles de Gaulle and his right wing government.  There were protests from places as diverse as Mexico, Brazil and even in conformist Germany.  There were clashes in the UK after Enoch Powell’s “rivers of blood” speech and real fears that the Britain would be led to the brink like France.  There was the brutal stamp down by the Soviets when they sent in over 750,000 troops to quell the largely peaceful “Prague Spring” that was a protest against the Soviet puppet control of the then Czechoslovakia.  And there was of course huge unrest in the world super power of the USA – student protests that started in Carolina spread all over the country and became a civil rights protest against the government.  There was even a national teachers strike.  The demonstrations initially started peacefully, but escalated into full civil riots especially after Martin Luther King was assassinated.  1968 was a pivotal year in the Vietnam conflict.  It was the year of the massive conflict at Khe Sanh, where American troops foolhardily tried to fight a pitched battle against Viet Cong forces.  The Tet offensive took place, which made it clear that America was not in control even in Southern Vietnam.  There were massacres of women, children and old people at Ha My and My Lai that would shock the world.  This was the year when popular opinion changed and there were demonstrations all over America against the war.  There were even demonstrations outside the US Embassy in London.  Wherever you looked there was uproar and the call for change.

 It is often referred to as “The year that rocked the world”.  So why were the young people revolting?  This of course makes you want to say one of the oldest jokes in the book, but of course there is a serious side.  The young people felt that the “old guard” were not in tune with their ideals, ethics and values.  These young people have gone on to become known as the Baby Boomers.  They weren’t as compliant as their parents, they would not put up with the oppression of being told what to do by people that had very little in common with themselves.  These were what we would call today human rights issues – the cry went out that all people are are equal, so why should I have to suffer under the yoke of a foreign administration for the colour of my skin, or be sent to a war that I think is wrong?

This was certainly an idealistic revolution taking place across the globe, led by the power of free speech.  But something that is often overlooked is that technology had a major part to play in the process.  1968 was the year when the amount of TVs in the world reached 200 million.  Almost wherever you were, ideas and information could be viewed by people in their own homes or that of a neighbour.  In America by 1968, 95% of homes had TVs.  The sale of colour sets had rocketed from only 9.6% of TVs sold in 1966 to over 24%.  The pictures of students and blacks being brutally assaulted by white “redneck” policeman at American college campuses and in the streets horrified the majority of people.  There was the first interracial kiss when Captain Kirk kissed Lieutenant Uhura on Star Trek.  These pictures led to uproar and great divisions within society.  Public opinion firmly changed in relation to the Vietnam War when the famous Eddie Adams photograph showing a Viet Cong officer being executed by a Southern Vietnamese police chief were beamed around the world via magazines, newspapers and TV.

Young people of today are revolting though, just not in what we call the western world. The Arab Spring saw real change in Yemen, Tunisia, Libya and Egypt and demonstrations in Algeria, Iraq, Jordan, Morocco, Sudan, Kuwait, Bahrain and, of course, in Syria that have subsequently mutated into a brutal civil war.  The demonstrations and bloodshed continue in Egypt after the new administration was found to be incompetent and no better than the previous government.  In relatively westernised Turkey, there have been disputes that started from a building project that proposed to fell trees in a beloved city square.  Bulgarians have reacted against the corruption and cronyism of their government.  In Indonesia the people have rejected higher fuel prices and in Brazil there have been massive demonstrations and violence that originated from a rise in bus fares. The interesting point, however, is that these people are not your normal ‘trouble makers” or rent a mobs that we saw in the 80’s, activated by Unions or other powerful groups. These people, by and large, are middle class and well educated.  In Brazil, 77% of the protesters have further education, 53% are under 25 and 71% have never demonstrated before. They are protesting for change to governments and systems that they believe are not fair, equal or in tune with their beliefs.

This new wave of protestation is being instigated and activated by technology, just like in 1968.   medium of communication today is social media.  The speed at which information and images can be sent around a city, country and the planet is now instant.  Some of these messages are proven to be wrong in hindsight, but anyone with a smartphone can widely spread fact and fiction.  This wave is happening not just in oppressive areas of the world, but also notably in democracies. Democracies, by their very nature, allow freedom of speech and protestation and have a vested interest in making change; otherwise leaders will be voted out.  It seems inevitable that we will sooner or later see protests from young people in the streets of first world countries like America and Britain, once they become disenfranchised with the politicians and businessmen that are in charge of their world – unless there are huge changes made.

Most of the people “in charge” are those very same people – the Baby Boomers – that called so vehemently and effectively for change in 1968.  It will be hugely ironic if they find themselves on the receiving end of a new wave of protests because they have failed to make changes that take into consideration that the young people of today have their own futures to look after.

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Is it evil to avoid tax?

Devil business manGoogle famously has the slogan “don’t be evil”. They are however embroiled in a worldwide issue – is tax avoidance evil? Not only have Google been dragged into the fray,  but Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft, Starbucks and even famous individuals such as Jimmy Carr have come under the spotlight for not paying their fair share of tax

Tax evasion is illegal, but avoidance is not. It is recognised that the more money you have, the more likely you are to be able to afford expensive accountants and lawyers to reduce tax. Apple, according to a study conducted by Millward Brown Optimar, for WPP is the most valuable brand on the planet, with Google second.

So how have Google only paid £10 million in corporation tax on revenues of nearly £12 billion, when they openly claim to make 25% profit? They carry out something called “Double Irish”. Their business is registered in Ireland where corporation tax is a lot lower and is allowed to move their profit offshore. In Google’s case this is the British Overseas Territory of The Cayman Islands, which has no income, capital gains or corporation tax. They end up with an effective tax rate of 2.4%. This obviously makes great business sense and if the British Government wants to change this arrangement they can obviously change the status of the Cayman Islands.

Google does indirectly pay tax though. All their employees in the country that they are working from pay income tax on their earnings, state taxes, national insurance and VAT. Google are also making a huge investment in the UK by building a massive HQ at Kings Cross in London, reputedly costing £300 million that will give much needed work for the construction sector. Once built it will directly provide jobs and indirectly give a boost to services such as bars, restaurants, shops, gyms, transport etc., in the local area.

Tax evasion is not illegal, so why all the fuss? At TomorrowToday we believe they are missing the point and are not taking notice of a major disruptive force; the opinions and power of the people within Generation X and Y. Even though Google was very famously founded by Gen Xer’s Larry Page and Sergey Brin they looked to a classic Baby Boomer in the form of Eric Schmidt to be the CEO of Google from 2001 to 2011 He was recruited to run the company under the guidance of Venture Capitalists that are in turn Baby Boomers. He went about his task to make the business more productive, more efficient and more profitable, because that’s what is expected; companies are there to make money and deliver returns to shareholders. As the CEO, it is his duty to reduce costs and if tax can be reduced, so be it. His systems are still in place even though Larry Page took over the reigns in April 2011. Ironically Eric Schmidt is part of Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron’s Business Advisory Group. At Apple the CEO is Tim Cook, Microsoft is Steve Bulmer, Starbucks Howard Schultz, the list goes on of household names that are CEO’s of businesses that are not paying their taxes. All of these Baby Boomers might be great business people to increase productivity and decrease costs, but are they in touch with the values of the younger generations? The days are over of having only your shareholders to answer to. Today’s younger generations are more attuned to the creation of a fairer world that looks after the whole, not just the individual. If you want them to buy from you, you need to show how you care for the world and its people. People will vote with their feet (Starbucks) or more likely their fingers in today’s connected world if businesses are not trusted and do not contribute to society. Generation X and Y are not brand loyal; they will find another service or product that suits their needs and values.

Superstar businesses of today, be wary. Back in 2000 Apple wasn’t even in the top 20 companies and you had probably never even heard of Google. Already both Apple and Google have fallen out of the top 20 Most Trusted Businesses in the USA according to the Ponema Institute. Huge companies and famous brands such as Cisco, Yahoo, Myspace, AOL, Dell and Nokia have fallen from lofty heights. You are never too big or famous to fail (unless you are a bank of course, but that’s another story). Plug into the values of today’s people and ignore them at your peril. It would be a shame that worthwhile projects that are being progressed by Google co-founder Sergey Brin, to try and solve the worlds energy and climate problems were cut short because they were not in touch with the very people they are trying to help be rid of evils such as pollution, famine and poverty.

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The Fergie Factor: A Disruptive Force

http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-photo-sir-alex-ferguson-caricature-editorial-use-image29928670After 26 years in charge of Manchester United Alex Ferguson has finally decided to take life a little easier by moving to a new role as a Director and Ambassador for the club. At 71 years of age he wants to move on, he is not as healthy as he used to be and is probably finding it tough to continue his punishing regime, especially when he is in need of a hip replacement operation. He will be aware of his own mortality and will have memories of being by the side of his mentor, the then Scotland manager Jock Stein when he died on the touchline during an international match from a heart attack.

Along the way he has become recognised as the most successful British football manager ever and arguably the world’s greatest. He is a true leader in his field both in achievement and the way he has gone about it. In his managerial career he has won 49 trophies in 39 seasons, including two Champions’ League titles. He has kept Manchester United the top performing team in the Premier League for 20 years, seeing off the challenges of tactician Arsene Wenger at Arsenal, the charisma of Jose Mourinho at Chelsea and the vast wealth of Manchester City. While other teams have constantly made managerial changes in the pursuit for glory, Ferguson has remained the captain of the United ship. The once great Liverpool of the 70’s and 80’s are a poor shadow of itself today after a host of poor performing managers with the failures of Graeme Souness still being felt today.

The question has to be how has he done it for so long and so consistently? Those that would like to knock his achievements will point to how his first years at United were not fruitful, that he inherited the Golden Generation of Butt, the Nevilles, Beckham, Giggs ,Scholes and the wealth of United would make anyone succeed. So let’s have a look at how he has done it.

Something that we talk about a lot in TomorrowToday are Disruptive factors in a business. Alex Ferguson was certainly a disruptive factor; he had already proven this in Scotland by upsetting the domination of Rangers and Celtic in Scotland whilst managing Aberdeen. When he arrived at United in 1986 things weren’t quite how he had hoped: the previous manager Ron Atkinson had spent all the money on dubious signings and the Edwards family were looking for a buyer and needed to re-fill the coffers. Ferguson systematically sold most of the players that Atkinson had brought in and United went from a pre-tax loss of £930K in season 87/88 to a profit of over £2 million in 88/89. Utimately the sale fell through, but this gave Ferguson the opportunity to spend time on his youth system, which he passionately believes in. Even though Ferguson was born in 1942 and would be considered to be from the Silent Generation he has great insight and respect from the then young Generation X development players. He went about nurturing them, caring for them and protecting them. He has many times been referred to as a father figure and continues to understand the Generation Y players that he has recently developed. He recognised the talent and went about keeping them. He made sure that they had good contracts, were well paid and looked after. The ensured the talent would have no desire to leave. He did however bring in tough rules that were to be broken at their peril; if they wanted the softer Gen X values, they would have to put up with the tough Silent Generation values of duty, discipline and dedication. Regardless of their stature, if they went against Ferguson’s values they would be subjected to the famous “hairdryer” and found themselves leaving the club regardless of who they were. Just ask Jaap Stam and David Beckham, respectively the world’s best defender at the time and the Golden Boy of English football. He insisted on being called Mr Ferguson or the Boss. He would show great loyalty to players and staff, but it would be according to his rules. By 1989 the chequebook was opened up to him and he brought in a host of talent to complement his budding stars.

He understood that if he were to pay top wages to keep and attract talent it would result in a better league position. A higher league position would result in increased annual revenue and then the cycle would begin again.

He has turned a provincial club with an annual turnover of about £7 million in 1986 to an International Superstar with a turnover of £320 million. He has attracted a host of footballing star talent to the club; Cantona, Keane, Ferdinand, Ronaldo and recently Van Persie. He has retained Giggs, Gary Neville and Scholes for their whole professional playing careers. He has inspired a host of former players to go into management – Robson, Hughes, Bruce, Coppell, Keane, Ince, Kanchelskis and the new Scotland manager Gordon Strachan to name a few.

What he has done is truly remarkable and of course there has to be an element of luck in it, but to have remained top of his chosen profession for over 20 years is outstanding He has done it through foresight, planning, understanding, professionalism, recognising talent, hard work and outstanding leadership. These were the Disruptive Factors of Ferguson that he brought into football.

What are the Disruptive factors that you should be looking at in your business sector that are going to change the way you work and operate? Understand these and you too could be the next Ferguson. Ignore them and you could be the next Graeme Souness.

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Generation Jobless: A warning to us all

The April 27th Economist ran a cover story about the ‘generation jobless’ – the global rise of youth unemployment. It is a serious concern for a number of reasons and one that could have long-lasting implications for both the global economy and political stability.

Generation Jobless coverGen Y was the hardest hit by the recession that began in 2008 and kicked up a gear in the following years. The ‘last in – first out’ hiring / firing principle meant that the ‘new kids on the block’ had to go when things became tough and belts were either tightened or taken away altogether. This was a generation that had only just arrived bright eyed and bushy tailed in the work environment only to be told there was no place for them. It was a generation determined to make their mark, to make a real difference and they were more than up for the challenge of restoring some sort of global and environmental equilibrium. In this regard they were unlike their predecessors – Gen X and although these are sweeping generational generalisations, the difference between Gen X and Gen Y in this regard is marked. Armed with such enthusiasm – and some would say naivety, meeting in a head-on collision with the recession and its subsequent job cuts, and general economic meltdown has put this generation into an economic tailspin. It will have a devastating impact on their overall perspective and long-term view. The depression that accompanies being without work will impact on this generation more than most. Exactly how this will play out – a greater distrust for the ‘institution’ and for national politics to name but two things, is hard to predict. But put yourself in their shoes and ask how can it not have enormous consequences?

The other concern is that an unhappy, disempowered populace – especially one with youth and energy on their side, fuels social revolutions. Add into that volatile mix the connectivity this generation enjoy through social media and you have all the raw ingredients of social upheaval. The Arab Spring and London riots being recent examples of what can happen when these forces converge into a ‘perfect storm’.

South Africa’s biggest risk is a future of large numbers of unemployed youth. This is a slight twist on what has taken place in Europe but the inherent risks remain the same with the similarity in both context and conditions. We will save our future in South Africa through sound education today – and this assumes an education specifically shaped to ensure that the youth emerging from the educational system are employable. Currently we are failing in meeting this challenge.

These broad concerns speak to demographic issues that are like rising damp in a wall: easy to ignore and gloss over, until it is too late. And like any demographic issues that take time to reach their boiling point, so it takes time for any viable solution to be felt.

‘Generation Jobless’…it is a headline that is chilling in it’s implications and one that serves as a stark warning to us all. Exactly what to do about it is less simple, but ignoring it, certainly isn’t an option.

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Building innovative companies using the powerful disruptive force of the Connected Generation (Part 1)

Building innovative companies using the powerful disruptive force of the Connected Generation (Part 1)

Competitive dynamics are shifting and the rules for success and failure are being rewritten across almost every industry and every business function. Exciting new innovative business models are emerging every day and you don’t have to be a fresh upstart to be a leading innovator. A recent study by Fast Company on the most innovative companies for 2013 shows that established companies Nike, Amazon, Safaricom and Target (the latter was founded over 110 years ago!), make up part of the Top 10 most innovative companies. However, the study also reveals that being legacy free helps as six relative newbies: Square; Splunk, Fab, Uber, Sproxil and Pinterest; capture the other top ten places and in doing so lay claim to the accolades that go with being a leading and successfully disruptive company.

These top ten innovative companies have two things in common; an overwhelming desire to disrupt their competitors by re-imagining the ways things are done and, they are also guided and driven by leaders who come from what we at TomorrowToday call the Connection Generation.

The Connection Generation is a cohort of innovation vanguards and change agents. As a rule of thumb, they were born sometime from the mid to late 1980’s until the early 2000′s and subsequently lived their adolescent years after 1995 growing up just as personal computers started to become ubiquitous in everyday life. This generation has been connected, communicating, content-centric, computerised, community-oriented, and continually clicking since they can remember. However, being a member of the Connection Generation is attitudinal factor rather than entirely age related, as we shall see later.

Astute companies are recognising the importance of creating a workplace that attracts and inspires talented members of the Connection Generation. By 2020, across the United States, Europe and the BRIC countries, this generation will make up 40 percent of the population and by then, they will constitute the largest single cohort of consumers and employees worldwide.

Business leaders take note, this generation is already rewriting the rules for success and failure and will be one of the greatest forces for disruption and empowerment the world of work has ever known. They are unhindered by preconceived notions of how things should be done, and their digitised view of the world ensures that they can imagine entirely new ways of doing things. We predict that this generation will drive changes in the world of work that will have as far reaching an impact as the industrial revolution had 200 years ago.

To support this claim we share with you, in Part 1 of this two series article, how the rules for competitive advantage have changed and why. In Part 2 we show why these changes in competitive advantage play naturally into the hands of the Connection Generation and in doing so we also provide you with a framework and new business script for building a competitive advantage in an era of turbulent change.

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Primary Blog contributors

The main contributors to this blog are:

Dr Graeme Codrington, co-founder of TomorrowToday, author, speaker and expert on the changing world of work
Dean van Leeuwen, co-founder and CEO of TomorrowToday UK & Europe, speaker, consultant and Chief Intellectual Adventurer
Catherine Garland, head of the TomorrowToday Strategic Insights team and previous MD of GFK Research in the United Kingdom
Keith Coats, co-founder of TomorrowToday South Africa, leadership development guru, speaker and author
Professor Nick Barker, director of the Asia Pacific Leadership Program at the East-West Center in Hawaii, leadership development expert
Markus Kramer, marketing director for Aston Martin and brand building expert
Keith Holdt, Visionary Enabler of business growth and change, currently works for LDC as an investment executive.
Dil Sidhu, Chief External Officer, Manchester Business School; Executive education specialist.
Dawna MacLean, expert on fostering meaningful change and creating authentic experiences through transparent and trusted partnerships.

Click here for a full list of contributors


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